There is a lot of talk these days from lifestyle gurus and TV talk show hosts about living the life you dream and creating your own reality, but how many people actually do that? Show of hands? I think I see someone in the back of the room but it’s possible they misunderstood the question. I have come to believe that this whole idea of creating the life you dream may sell posters, but ultimately, is a setup for disappointment if your dream is not already what you love. Rhonda Coleman is one of those people who combined the skills gained in her career in Public Relations and Marketing with her passion for the outdoors and mixed it with a love for design and a dose of reality. In the end, she created a dream job not by strategic planning and concentrated efforts, but by simply doing what she loved and by being her funny and lighthearted self in the process.
California-born Rhonda grew up moving from air base to air base with her civilian dad whose work in the space program provided frequent opportunities to move and camp in new locations. It was something she always loved and as an adult living in Bend, Oregon, she resurrected her childhood pastime. This time though she knew she was done with tents and sleeping bags and she bought a vintage trailer. The trailer was a 1958 “Cardi”. She laughingly realizes now that it must have been a Cardinal missing the “nal”, but it was loved. Rhonda made a little weekend home of it and hit the road for the national parks and favorite destinations in the Pacific Northwest. She learned to tow and back up and navigate the steep inclines of the area on her own. Her husband, Ralph would sometimes tag along but it was Rhonda’s passion. The trailer, while loved, was not without its issues and when she discovered trailer cancer (i.e.,mold) the Cardi was done, but not the camping life.
Arriving home from work one day Ralph showed Rhonda a catalog cover on which a limited edition Airstream trailer was featured. The catalog, “Design Within Reach,” had an article about Christopher Deam the noted modern designer that Airstream hired to bring their interiors in line with their futuristic looking exteriors. Deam redesigned the Airstream interior and a limited edition of twenty five trailers became available to the public. When Rhonda and Ralph saw the trailer they were in love and picked up the phone and ordered one on the spot, sight unseen. They were not alone in their swoon. Actor Tom Hanks also bought one and eventually another block of the trailer was produced and sold. Rhonda believes that fewer than 100 units of this model were made. With the purchase of this Airstream, Rhonda joined the world of “Alumafans”; those that love aluminum trailers, especially the iconic Airstream.
Airstream aficionados speak their own language. Rhonda explained the terminology employed by the owners of the 16’ Bambi trailers. “Twofootitis” refers to the inability to swirl around the kitchen. There is little floor space in this model. Aficionados refer to other trailers that aren’t Airstreams as “SOB’s”- Some Other Brand. There are also all of the “Alumafests” happening across the country. “Alumafandango” and “Alumapalooza” to name a few. “Alumapalooza” is an annual event in Jackson Center, Ohio where Airstream trailers are made. “Alumalovers” from all over the country converge on this small town, and while boondocking in the Airstream factory parking lots, attend seminars, have minor repairs done, catch up with “aluma” friends and plan future outings in this festive atmosphere. They have their own newsletter, Facebook page and Twitter accounts. They are a subculture of the RV industry and while they love all RVers, they really appreciate their fellow “Alumalovers”. They like to say that they “live riveted”. This is the world Rhonda entered when she purchased her limited edition Bambi Airstream.
Along the way to “Aluma” happiness, Rhonda had to share! It’s her nature to do so. She began writing and sharing her stories online and in local papers and eventually became the editor of “Outside Interests,” the online partner to “Airstream Life” magazine. Outside Interests publishes news, travel and trailer tips, Airstream events and interviews. Rhonda travels for weekends and sometimes for weeks at a time. Ralph joins her when he can but her job as a travel and RV industry writer gives her a good excuse to get up and go when she sees an opportunity. She made the trek to Alumapalooza on her own. She doesn’t mind the long miles alone; in fact she enjoys those trips. There is always time to formulate the next story, enjoy the small towns along the way and catch up with friends on the road. Rhonda bought a trailer but she didn’t know at the time she was buying a new lifestyle. Her Airstream interests turned into a dream job that no amount of planning could have generated. Her organic career sprung from a love of life first, and her personal interests second. I can’t wait to see where she and her Bambi are heading next!
To read more from Janine or to listen to her podcast go to www.girlcamper.com.